Saturday, February 17

Things I have learned about inflammation

With the difficulty factor of the workouts we are all doing, with the food choices we make, the lifestyle we lead, the lack of down time, we are all stretching the boundaries of what our bodies can handle. Little things can lead to big things if we don’t pay attention when our bodies throw up a white flag. It can be really hard to listen and change things up, but it can be really bad not to listen. (By the way, I am at Day 30 of 80 Day Obsession and still going strong!)

I have been athletic for my entire life. At 2 I was dancing tap, ballet, and jazz. At 9 I started figure skating. At 12, I gave up dance and started swimming competitively. In high school, I swam, did track, p,ayes badminton, volleyball, and I can’t even remember what else. In my 20s, I took up cycling and dabbled in that. I also water skied, snow skied, and figure skated. Oh and jazzercise. Years of jazzercise. In my 30s, motherhood, and my first instance of inflammation, bursitis in my hip from carrying a too heavy little boy too much. Healed that up, more jazzercise, more gym work, in-line skating, ice skating, swimming, etc. you get the idea. I’m no newbie when it comes to moving your body! 

For a second, I wanted to say I’m no newbie to injuries too, but you know, up until the bursitis, I never had a single injury, other than blisters from ballet dancing on point! I was a dynamo. Unstoppable. I am built pretty sturdily, and have always been able to just heal up that blister and move on. 

All that changed after a few years of sedentary life, desk work, and a lack of understanding and believing in invincibility (and a pair of boots with too high heels....) in my mid 40s, I started having this pain under my heel. It was like it was numb, except when it wasn’t numb and hurt to put any pressure on. It was mostly in the morning, but it could last all day! I thought I just needed better shoes. I tried that, it didn’t work. I went to a podiatrist, one of the best, and got fitted for orthotics. That helped a little, but still not enough to get me moving like I always had. By my early 50s, I was reduced to sitting on an exercise bike and believing it was all I could do. 

Then one day, I learned about DDPYOGA. I started doing it, and the heel pain diminished. Not all the way, but it was better. I realized that the stretching movements of yoga were helping, so I stretched more. The pain changed at this point. It moved to the back of my ankle. This scared me. I went in and they told me I had Achilles tendinitis. I worked with a physical therapist for months on it, using bands and tubes and doing all kinds of things, none of which really worked. X-rays showed it was “just inflamed”. Nothing ripped, so deal with the inflammation with pills. 

If you know me at all, you know I’m not a fan of pills. I believe pills are typically a bandaid and can lead to more problems, because we take them, they mask the pain, and we go be to invincible mode! I had a lot of conversations with my chiropractor, the amazing Dr. Grace Basista, and we worked and worked on that heel. She eventually used a cold laser on it, from my arch to the top edge of my heel, and the pain was just about gone. 

In 2015, about 3 months after the laser treatment, I went to the DDPYOGA retreat in Cancun, Mexico. I was determined and excited, having had this planned for 2 years! When I checked in, I realized that my room, though beautiful, was at the far end of the resort, at the very bottom of the hill the place is built on. Inside I was freaking out, but I decided it was what it was and I would call for a golf cart as often as I needed to. I was there for fun! On the second day, I decided to walk up the hill. Halfway there, I got incredible cramps in my left calf, the one with the Achilles issue. I got to the top, and my young, wonderful marathon runner friend TQ, was already there. I told him about the cramp and asked if he had a favorite stretch. He got me stretching against a tree, and the pain subsided. It never came back, and my heel no longer hurt. At the exact same time, I need to interject something. Dallas Page, the founder of DDPYOGA, strongly suggests going gluten free and dairy free. It’s a cornerstone of his program. At the resort, we were able to order gluten and dairy free easily, so I ate that way from day 1. By day 4 of the trip, I was losing weight and my heel/foot/ankle were like new. It was incredible.

I came home and did well, staying as gluten free and dairy free as I could easily stay, but not religiously, like I had in Cancun. I came to realize that without gluten and dairy the pain was gone. It was back with them. I did research and studied, and found out there was a connection. A huge connection between what we eat and inflammation. Inflammation. Achilles tendinitis and bursitis are both inflammatory reactions. 

Inflammation is no joke. It isn’t something to ignore and take lightly. I have been dealing with it for about 8 years now, and have finally, mostly beat it into submission, but it has been a long road and very hard work. My diet has played a huge part, probably the biggest part of healing, but there’s more. This is my list of “musts”:

  1. Stay gluten (mostly wheat) and cow dairy free.
  2. Stretch. Stretch when I first wake up, stretch before I work out, and stretch after I finish. No shortcuts, and no rushing. 
  3. Get enough sleep. If I don’t get enough sleep, lik 7 or more hours, I’m not giving my body time to heal.
  4. Workout regularly. I workout 6 days a week. Five is my absolute minimum, 6 is my optimal.
  5. Buy good shoes, with stability. (stability and motion control is best, but stability is usually ok.)
  6. Replace my shoes often. Did you know that your sneakers wear out within just a few months?? They can look gorgeous on top and be totally worn out. Who knew?
  7. Listen to my body. If I buy a pair of shoes, and after a few wearings, notice pain, I’ll stop wearing them, then test to be sure it’s the shoes and not a bad day. I have learned and stick to a few brands that love my feet and that I love. (Born, Algeria, New Balance, and recently, I’ve have good luck with Nike Air Pegasus 34).
  8. Modify. Short of muscle stretching, exercise should not hurt. If it does, you are either not doing something right, wearing the wrong shoes, or pushing harder than your body can handle. There are no medals awarded for whoever does the most macho exercise. Nobody is keeping track or taking notes on your workout. Except you. Modify that move and own it. If you are doing yoga, for instance, down dog, and haven’t been doing yoga for years and years and years, you should NOT be trying to work to get your heels flat. It takes YEARS for the instructor to be able to do that! If you are doing lunges and your knees are providing background sounds, love them by taking your lunge a little slower and not as deep. Trust me, you will still get the benefit. Do an alternative move if you have to, but don’t just keep going. Everything has a price. The down time to an injury brought on by overuse or pushing too hard can kill your momentum completely and sideline you from not just your workouts, but other parts of your life. It’s not worth it.
  9. This one will sound crazy, but for whatever reason, it seems to help. Eat 2 Brazil nuts a day. Brazil nuts are apparently awesome for inflammation who knew? I also have researched and found that the group of vegetables and fruits called “nightshades” cause inflammation. Tomatoes, eggplant, white potatoes (not sweet potatoes), just to make a few. 
  10. Ice is your friend. The last thing Dallas told me at the retreat was ice your knees after every single workout. I am horrible at icing. He knows that. He also knows how beneficial it is. Dallas is a wrestling Hall of Famer with 3 World titles. He knows pain. He was over 35 when he got his titles, and one of his favorite stories is the other guys making fun of him for taking ice baths. Many of those guys are now doing DDPYOGA with Dallas to heal their bodies. Hmmmmm.
I know this probably sounds preachy. I know that many of the people in my exercise circle are younger, more fit, and thinking this doesn’t apply to them, but please, please, please don’t discount this information. Inflammation is real, and it is no joke. Listen to your body and gift it by handling inflammation when it happens and healing it. If you have inflammation, take a few days off, ice like a crazy person, fix your diet, and you will be rewarded. Even if you have bad knees or shoulders, or whatever, doing these things can often provide relief so you can go on.

Make it a fabulous day! I’m off to walk my first 5k since the Achilles tendinitis in 2015!

Thursday, January 18

Start Where You Are and Keep Moving

Have you ever built a Lego kit? Yesterday, I was in a meeting with my team, and one of my coworkers pointed out that she looks at projects like Lego kits. Each component of the project has to be identified and put with others that are similar to it. You have to make sure you have all the pieces you need before you start, or you won’t be successful. Then, there is a step by step process to completing the Lego project or you won’t end up with a finished project that looks right.
I thought this was SUCH a profoundly simple way of breaking down projects. Then, this morning, I woke up thinking about this analogy again and realized that it applies to working out and fitness as well.
You don’t just start a program and immediately perform every move perfectly. You just don’t. (well, you might, if you are WonderWoman or Mr. Universe, but I think even they have learning curves!) You take one step at a time. One movement, one exercise, one day, until eventually, you are able to do it all to the best of your ability.
I think that often, we start a program and, when we can’t do everything right away, we get discouraged. How about if we, instead, take it one step at a time, and one component at a time, and figure out a path to get where we want to go instead? I have started doing this, and I’m having more success and am far happier than I was before I started trying to WonderWoman my way through!
I do Beachbody workouts. They are fairly badass, and led by supertrainers who are in incredible shape! They aren’t like me, they do this for a living, and they have done it for a living for a long time! I, on the other hand, am 57 years old. 40 years ago, I was captain of the varsity swim team. 30 years ago, I did Jazzercise, and I did it on and off until about 15 years ago. For the past 5 years, I’ve done DDPYoga, until I was forced to take a break for the very reason I’m describing here. I went in with the mindset that I should be doing what the trainer on the screen was doing. It took a LONG time and a LOT of frustration for me to understand that Dallas has been doing this for over 20 years. I was new to it, I shouldn’t have been forcing my body to do motions it wasn’t ready to do. I needed to be patient and build. I needed to identify the Lego components and follow the instructions. Are you with me? Do you see where I’m going?
I’m currently doing a program called 80 Day Obsession. We just started Monday. I have the insanely amazing experience of being in the Exclusive Coach Group. I’m there with 40,000 other Beachbody Coaches, from all walks of life, all over the world, at all different experience levels. We are there together, supporting each other, doing our best with this new program, and trying to learn it so we can help our teams learn it and be successful with it. Am I killing it? Well, I am for me!!! I’ve finished all 3 days, and I’m still here. J
When I first started Beachbody workouts, I started on a special challenge week led by a man named ShaunT. He is, beyond a doubt, one of the most inspiring people on the planet, (behind Diamond Dallas Page, don’t get me wrong!). Shaun week was hard, guys. It was REALLY hard! On Day 1, as I did it, I couldn’t breathe. I was sweating so badly I couldn’t see. I wasn’t sure if I could finish. I finally reached a point where I started to just march when I didn’t think I could do anymore. When it ended, I celebrated. Then I told myself, “if I can finish up to Day 3, I’ll be proud.” So the next day I hit play again. I repeated the sweating and lack of oxygen, marching, and finished Day 2. Each day, I kept moving. I wasn’t comfortable getting on the floor to do bear crawls, so I toe tapped the edge of a step instead. Not quite the same move, but I was pushing, for me. As the days progressed, I found more and more ways to do more than march. I got creative, and I kept moving. I didn’t stop. I didn’t quit, I just modified. Guess what? I finished the entire week! I then moved on to a program called Shift Shop. It was SO hard, y’all. I mean, it was SO hard!!! I felt like I’d never get it down and I had to move around and try to march and do all sorts of things that were outside my comfort zone. I modified the heck out of it, and finished that twice! I’ve done other programs the same way and I’m down 30 inches and 23 pounds since I started Beachbody in late June, so I know it works.
Bottom line, never give up. Keep moving. Can’t do it? Once you try it once, substitute in something similar that you CAN do. Keep moving. Next time you hit that move later in the program? Try it again, modify it again. Eventually, I will bet you that you will be able to do the move. Really. Trust me. I can do ShaunT week workouts 90% unmodified now. (the remaining modification is me protecting myself from an old injury and I’m good with that!)
Please don’t stop. If you need help with modifications, if you need help staying motivated? Let me know. I’m here to help. I’m more than happy to try to help as long as you are willing to put in the work.

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